The black cat

Fifteen minutes after the last trick-or-treaters padded down our front walkway and disappeared into the night, I extinguished the porch light.

Idly, I selected a few bite-sized remnants of  leftover candy from the bowl, stretched my shoulders and plodded upstairs to the bedroom. I shed my shirt and pants, pulled on my pajamas and crawled into bed, reaching my iPad from the bedside table. What to read on this hallowed eve?

After a quick search I pulled up Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.” As I scrolled down the screen, the brevity of the understated lines added to the horror of this tale told by a madman. Afterwards, I read “The Black Cat,” an equally gruesome story, cast as the confessions of a nearly insane alcoholic.

I reached for the switch, turned out the reading lamp and pushed down deep under the covers.

Early this morning I awoke with the image of Poe’s one-eyed feline fiend seared into my brain. I groped for my heavy socks and retreated downstairs to the kitchen to make an urn of morning coffee. Outside, the lifeless leaves rustled in the darkness.

Coffee mug in hand, I retraced my steps up the stairs through the back bedroom to the office. I sat down at my desk, mechanically checked the e-mail accounts and read the headline news. Afterwards, I set to work editing a manuscript, and was deep in thought, occasionally correcting a line of text, when I felt a presence in the room.

Fingertips on the keyboard, I turned my head toward the narrow doorway. There in the middle of the scuffed hardwood floor, staring directly at me with her cool green eyes, sat our black cat.

Briefly, she licked her fur, then meowed twice. When I paid no attention, she approached my chair and meowed again, louder this time.

I sighed, saved my work, pushed back the chair and followed her downstairs to where she stood by the front door, waiting expectantly to be freed from the catacombs of the house.

I threw back the deadbolt, opened the door a crack and shuddered at the blast of cold air. At length she slipped out and disappeared into the predawn darkness.

Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley (1894–1895) for “The Black Cat,” by Edgar Allan Poe